Among the early settlers of Illinois were to be found all classes and conditions of people - the good and the bad, the young and the old; the rich and the poor, the industrious and the shiftless. There were not a few of the criminal class; refugees from justice, murders, thieves, perjurers and robbers. In the sketch of Francis Bridgman in this volume, the horse thieves and counterfeiters who once infested Cass county are described. In some sections the criminal class was numerous enough to control the machinery of the law.
Governor Ford in his history of Illinois says: "I had a good opportunity to know the early settlers of Hancock county. I had attended the Circuit Courts there as states attorney, from 1830, when the county was first organized, up to the year 1834; and to my certain knowledge the early settlers, with some honorable exceptions, were, in popular language, hard cases. In the year 1834, one Dr. Galland was a candidate for the legislature, in a district composed of Hancock, Adams and Pike counties. He resided in the country of Hancock, and as he had in the early part of his life been a notorious horse-thief and counterfeiter, belonging to the Massac gang, and was then no pretender to integrity, it was useless to deny the charge. In all his speeches he freely admitted the fact, but came near receiving a majority of votes in his own county of Hancock. I mention this to show the character of the people for integrity. From this time, down to the settlement of the Mormons there, and for four years afterwards, I had no means of knowing about the future increase of the Hancock people. but having passed my whole life on the frontiers, on the outer edge of the settlements, I have frequently seen that a few first settlers would fix the character of a settlement for good or for bad, for many years after its commencement. If bad men began the settlement, bad men would be attracted to them, upon the well known principle that "birds of a feather will flock together." Rogues will find each other out, and so will honest men. From all which it appears extremely probable, that the later immigrants were many of them attracted to Hancock by a secret sympathy between them and the early settlers."
The Governor refers to the "Massac gang;" Massac county and Pope county are situated on the Ohio river in the south end of the state. In these two counties a colony of horse thieves, counterfeiters and robbers had settled. They were so numerous and bold as to be independent of the law. It 1846 a number of these desperate men attacked an old man in Pope county and robbed him of twenty-five hundred dollars in gold. One of the gang left behind a knife that had been made by a blacksmith in the neighborhood. The owner of the knife was seized and tortured, and confessed his crime and divulged the names of the others. A dozen of these were also seized and subject to torture, and they gave a long list of names of their confederates, scattered over several counties in Southern Illinois. the people who had resolved to put a stop to these criminal proceedings organized themselves together under the name of regulators and ordered the worst of the criminals to leave the country. Before they could be driven out the county election came on in August, 1846, and the criminals all voting together elected a sheriff and other county officers in Massac county, who would not enforce the law. Those who were arrested and put in jail were rescued by their friends. The regulators, finding they could do nothing under the law, proceeded to act independently of law. They held a convention in December, 1846, at Golconda; the representatives came from the counties of Pope, Massac and Johnson; they ordered the sheriff and the clerk of the county court and many other citizens of Massac to leave the county within thirty days. The sheriff and some others left and were gone all winter. The regulators began a reign of terror; they seized persons suspected of crime, tied ropes around their bodies, and with sticks twisted the ropes until they crushed the ribs of their victims. Some were thrown into the Ohio river and held under water until they confessed.
At a term of the Circuit Court of Massac county, the grand jury found indictments against a number of the regulators. By this time a large number of the thieves had become regulators; a lot of them were arrested and thrown into jail. Others of the regulators, including a number from Kentucky, assembled, denounced the judge, threatened to lynch him if he ever returned to the county, took possession of the county jail, liberated their friends confined therein, seized and murdered several of the sheriff's posse, and ran the sheriff out of the county. The Governor was appealed to; he ordered Dr. Gibbs, of Johnson county, to call on the militia for a force to protect the sheriff and other county officers. The Doctor called in two justices of the peace and ordered the regulators to appear; they refused to do it, whereupon the Doctor declared there were no rogues in Massac county. Whereupon the regulators again assembled; caught a number of suspected persons and tried them; some were acquitted, others convicted and whipped or tarred and feathered. These proceedings continued for a considerable time until the passions of this delectable community finally subsided.
In many of the counties in Illinois there were gangs of villains who went to elections armed with butcher knives and called themselves "butcher knife" boys; and the "half horse and half alligator" men, and the candidates who had these ruffians among their supporters were almost invariably elected.
In 1816 and 1817, in the towns of the Territory, the country was overrun with horse thieves and counterfeiters. They were so numerous, and so well combined in many counties, as to set the laws at defiance. Many of the sheriffs, justices of the peace, and constables were of their number; and even some of the judges of the county courts; and they had numerous friends to aid them and sympathize with them, even amongst those who were least suspected. When any of them were arrested, they either escaped from the slight jails of those times, or procured some of their gang to be on the jury; and they never lacked witnesses to prove themselves innocent. The people formed themselves into revolutionary tribunals in many counties, under the name of "Regulators;" and the governor and judges of the territory, seeing the impossibility of executing the laws in the ordinary way, against an organized banditti, who set all law at defiance, winked at and encouraged the proceedings of the regulators.
If any native of an older state chance to read this sketch, let him not seer at Illinois and her early history; please remember, dear sir, that these thieves, murderers, wife-beaters and counterfeiters all came in here from the older states, perhaps the worst of them came from your state; and although where were too many of them, plenty were left where they came from.
With relief one turns from the study of these miserable criminals to the contemplation of other classes of early settlers. Most of them came young in years and with but little property, but others were people of mature years, who had large families they wished to establish in a country which could afford their children greater opportunities. Not a few of the pioneers brought considerable sums of money which they invested in the erection of comfortable homes and in the early acquisition of large bodies of land. Some had served the public as lawmakers, or had become distinguished for military service. The churches of the older states sent out young, intelligent and forceful preachers to work for righteousness among the Illinois pioneers, and their efforts were zealously encouraged by the better class of settlers, whether church members or otherwise. It is to these people of the better class to whom Illinois owes her greatness; they saved the young state from the curse of slavery, and from the disgrace of repudiation in the dark days of financial disaster and distress; and so well did they direct the progress of the young and struggling state, that she has been able to pursue the course so wisely marked out for her, until she has reached her present proud position - the "Queen of the Mississippi Valley;" that broad and fertile land, the inhabitants of which will, in the near future, assume and continue the control of the government of the greatest republic of the earth.
The earliest known ancestors of Charles Beggs were Scotchmen, who spelled their name Begg; those who remained in Scotland adhered to that spelling of the name. One or more of the family crossed to the north of Ireland and some one of their descendants following a custom of those early days changed the name by the addition of another letter.
The paternal grandfather of Charles Beggs was James Beggs, who was born in the north part of Ireland; he married Elizabeth Hardy a native of the same country. These people came to America in the early part of the eighteenth century and settled in New Jersey. Of their history but little can be learned; they were the parents of four children, two sons and two daughters; one of the sons died early in life without descendants; the daughters married and reared families. The surviving son Thomas, who was the father of Charles Beggs, was born in New Jersey; he married Sarah Barnes, who was the daughter of Charles Barnes and Elizabeth (McDowell) Barnes; Charles Barnes was born in America; Elizabeth McDowell was born in northern Ireland, and it is believed that her ancestors were Scotch people.
The time of the removal of Thomas Beggs from New Jersey to Virginia is unknown. He went into the Revolutionary army at the beginning of that desperate struggle of the Colonies against the tyranny of Great Britain which resulted in the birth of a wonderful nation; he became an officer in that army and died of camp fever in 1778. He must have left his widow and family of young children comfortably provided for, as these children were able to acquire good educations. One of them, James, became a graduate of William and Mary College at Williamsburg, in the Old Dominion. The youngest of the family, George Beggs, died early in life without issue. Charles Beggs grew to manhood in the state which gave to the nation so large a number of her great men; he became a splendid horseman, a man of extensive information and of polished manners. His birth occurred on the 30th day of October in the year 1775, in Rockingham county. He was married to Dorothy Trumbo, a native of Rockingham county, Virginia, on August 1, 1797, and they immediately started for Kentucky to seek their future home. They made the journey on horse-back, the usual mode of travel of that day. Their route lay up the valley of Virginia, then down through the valley of the Tennessee, on through the Cumberland Gap, and from thence over the Boone trail to the county of Jefferson, where they settled and began the foundation of a permanent home. Charles Beggs was a farmer; he was satisfied with the climate and with the soil of that part of the State of Kentucky which he had selected as an abiding place. Opportunities were more numerous and more valuable than those of his native state, but the people were more lax in their morals; the cursed institution of slavery existed in a more revolting form, Charles Beggs was a Methodist; the founder of his church, the great John Wesley, had solemnly declared: "Slavery is the sum of all villainies," and Charles Beggs heartily agreed with him. His first child, Elizabeth, was born in that slave state; he lived among a people, governed by laws that allowed a father to sell for money, his own mulatto children, and divide it among his white children: his soul cried out in protest against this awful condition; he could not consent to remain and rear his children among such morally degraded people; he resolved to go where he could breathe free air. We find him them in the year 1800 again a "home seeker." He crossed the Ohio river into the country that later became the state of Indiana. He settled close to the bank of that river in what is now Clark county. His brothers, John and James, must have had the same abhorrence of the curse of slavery, for they soon joined him. Here Charles Beggs settled down, in peace and contentment; he became a quiet farmer, until he was called by his friends into public life. In 1813, assisted by his friend, Abram Epler, he built a water-mill; later he became a merchant as well as a farmer.
The territory of Indiana was organized in 1800, with the capital at Vincennes and with General William Henry Harrison as its Governor. Although Charles Beggs had but just made his appearance from the south side of the river, his character and ability was immediately recognized and he was chosen as a member of the convention to draft a constitution for the new territory from Clark county. He proceeded to Vincennes where he soon made the acquaintance of Governor Harrison and they became the closest of friends. A few years later, they fought together in the battle of Tippecanoe in which Charles Beggs commanded a company of calvary and where Harrison at the head of the army acquired sufficient military glory to sweep him into the presidency of the United States.
In the sketch of the history of the Black Laws of Illinois, elsewhere found in this volume, it is shown how the lawmakers of Illinois sneakingly introduced or rather continued slavery in this state under the guise of the "Laws of Indentures." The same nefarious scheme was attempted in Indiana. In 1808, James Beggs, the brother of Charles, was president of the Governor's Council in the territorial legislature, held at Vincennes, and a system of "Black Laws" similar to those in Illinois, was proposed for Indiana; it was hotly debated; upon a test vote it was found that this council was evenly divided upon the question and James Beggs, the President of the Council defeated the infamous scheme by casting his vote upon the side of freedom and justice.
The pioneers of what is now Clark county, Indiana, settled along the bank of the Ohio river. The river runs, at this point, in a southerly course - more southerly, than southeasterly. The woods in the interior were infested with wild animals and wild Indians; there were no means of transportation except by horses and mules; all their merchandise came floating down the river, and naturally, the early settlers clung to its banks. As population increased, it became necessary to select a county seat for Clark county. In the interior was a small village named Springville. This village contained two hotels, a blacksmith shop, two wheel wrights, one physician and a surveyor lived there; it was the largest cluster of houses in the county, away from the river. It was founded by an adventurous character, an Indian trader named Tully, who built the first cabin in which he lived and carried on his barter with the red men, and in his honor was named Tullytown. The people remote from the river desired the location of the seat of justice at Springville, but by sharp practice it was located at Jeffersonville, a river town in the extreme south end of the county immediately opposite Louisville, Kentucky. The courts were held here from 1802 until 1810. the few residents of Springville disgusted and discouraged melted away and the little town site again became farm land. The interior filling up more and more rapidly, it was resolved to relocate the county seat. Charles Beggs was a member of the state legislature, and one of his brothers was a member of the senate. These men introduced the necessary measures to obtain the relief needed and by constant and persistent effort they succeeded. Charles Beggs was authorized to choose a fitting place for the county seat of the county. He located it upon two farms, purchased from James McCampbell and Barzilla Baker and upon them was laid out in 1806 the town which has ever since been the county seat of Clark county. In honor of Charles Beggs, this town was named Charles Town, or Charlestown, which is its present name. To help the building of this town Mr. Beggs, then a prosperous farmer, thirty-one years of age established a store. He was also engaged in the business of purchasing the products of the farm and loading them upon flat boats, taking them down the Ohio and Mississippi to the lower towns and as far as New Orleans, where, disposing of his boats and their cargoes, he would make his return on horseback.
In the year 1811, his wife Dorothy died; she had borne him six children, two of whom died in infancy. His oldest daughter was then eleven years old and his youngest child, who was his oldest son, was three years old. On the 12th day of November 1812, Charles Beggs was married to Mary Ruddell in Woodford county, Kentucky. This lady was also a native of Rockingham county, Virginia, and was twenty-two years old at the time of her marriage, being 15 years younger than her husband. She became an affectionate stepmother to his young children, and she became the mother of nine children of whom eight were born in Clark county, Indiana.
Here Charles Beggs resided for twenty-eight years, honored and esteemed by all who knew him. As a farmer, a merchant, a miller and a trader he accumulated sufficient property to comfortably support and educate his large family; his distinguished services in the army, and in the halls of legislation were of great value to the people of his county. No one would have deemed it possible that after living here until he was fifty-four years of age, that he would dispose of his property, and remove to the wilds of Illinois to begin life anew in that far-off country.
His oldest daughter, Elizabeth, born in Kentucky in the year 1798, when she became eighteen years of age, was married to Henry Hopkins, a farmer in Clark county. A sister of Mr. Hopkins who had married Wm. Conover had gone to Illinois and settled in the prairie, near the present site of Princeton, in Morgan county. the accounts of the fertility of the black land of Illinois, made Mr. Hopkins impatient to leave Clark county and seek his fortune in the Sucker state. Accordingly, in the early fall of 1825, he loaded his wagon with necessary goods and with his wife, then twenty-seven years of age, with their four children, the oldest a daughter of seven years and the youngest a daughter of ten months, (Mrs. Sarah E. Cunningham, now living  with her son Henry, five miles east of Virginia) and wended their way slowly along, arriving at Mr. Conover's place, November 1, 1825. he spent the winter in that neighborhood, and in the spring of 1826 he settled upon a fine tract of land in Section 5, Township 17, Range 9, on the east side of Sugar Grove. A few years later, he acquired the title to this land, and made it his home for nearly sixty years. Mr. Hopkins was a brave and very generous man and soon became famous for his hospitality - ready to share with the traveler or a neighbor anything in his possession which would cheer or comfort. The description of this beautiful country, which he sent back, induced many of the people of Southern Indiana to follow in his footsteps, and make their homes in Central Illinois.
In the year 1829, Captain Charles Beggs removed from Clark county Indiana, to Morgan County, Illinois. He settled on the north side of Jersey Prairie about one mile west of old Princeton, where he lived for forty years, the farm is now, (in 1907), owned by Mr. Samuel Crum. With him came his wife Mary (Ruddell) beggs and their five children aged from one year to twelve years, and also Jacob Epler, the husband of his third daughter Mary, who was then twenty-seven years of age, and their infant son of one year. Mr. Epler settled on a fine tract of land in Sec 27 T. 17, R. 10, which lies just west of Little Indian R.R. station, and is now owned by William Buracker.
This was a wild country in 1827; very little of the land had then been entered; nearly all of the few settlers were squatters - people who built their cabins near springs or streams, and lose by tracts of timber and who cultivated the adjacent land in ignorance of boundary lines. Morgan county was but six years old; Jacksonville was but a straggling little village only four years old; it was laid out in March, 1825, by Thomas Arnett and Isaac Dial on 40 acres of ground. The first court house was built in 1826. Thomas Beard had established a ferry at the Indian Mound on the Illinois river and in 1829, he and E. C. March laid out Beardstown. In 1830, there were only three families in Beardstown and they all lived in log huts. Princeton was not begun until 1833. Virginia was laid out seven years after Captain Beggs came to Illinois. Archibald Job had settled on the prairie a few miles east of the present site of Virginia. Among others, within the present boundaries in Cass county, in 1829, were the following: John Knight, Temperance Baker, James orchard, Joseph C. Christy, Frederick Troxel, David Black, James Smart, John R. Sparks, Aquilla Low, Abram Gish, Charles Robertson, Peter Taylor, Martin Robertson, Jonah H. Case, Daniel Shafer, James Davis, Andrew Williams, Alexander Huffman, William Summers, L. L. Case, George F. Miller, Henry McKean, Daniel T. Mathews, Daniel Richards, Shadrick Scott, Benjamin Mathews, Samuel Grosong, Wm. S. Hanby, John E. Scott, John deWeber, A. S. West, John Ray, Joshua Crow, Phineas Underwood, Jacob Yaple, Alexander Cox, Henry Madison, James Marshall, Jesse Allred, Isaac Mitchell, Thomas Redman, George Tureman, W. M. Clark, George Freeman, Silas Freeman, Isaiah Paschal, Thos. Plaster, Richard McDonald, John Taylor, William Holmes, James Fletcher, Solomon Redman, Henry Kittner, Martin Harding, William Miller, Solomon Penny, Benjamin Carr, Reddick Horn, Elisha Carr, John Waggoner, James Scott, Alexander Pittner, W. Myers, Thomas Gatton, Carrollton Gatton, Nathan Compton, John Robertson, Jacob Ward, Jacob Lawrence, Peter Conover, William Conover, Joseph T. Leonard, Geo. T. Bristow, W. Breeden, Peter Taylor, Samuel Way, Archer Herndon, Page A. Williams, Robt, Fitzhugh, Jesse Gum, John Vance, Richard Jones, Andrew Beard, John creel, Joseph McDonald, Jonas McDonald, John McDonald, Samuel Reid, Robt. Elkins, Eaton Nance, David Williams, James B. Watson, Wm. Cooper, Wm. Crow, Eli Cox, Robt. Johnson, G. W. Wilson and Wm. T. Hamilton. These were not all the people who were settlers here in 1829, but the list includes a large majority of them. The open prairie country was then uninhabited. Dr. Hall entered hundreds of acres of it four years later on. As before stated the settlers in 1829, were located along the edge of the scattered timber belts bordering upon the streams. They did not believe the winter storm swept prairies would ever be covered with farm homes. The people of today have no conception of the severity of the winds of winter that prevailed in those days. There were no buildings, fences, hedges or orchards to break the force of the gales which were then so common. the timber on :the barrens" at that time was nothing more than low bushes; the annual fires kept them near to the surface. There were a few rude water mills, here and there, that crushed corn and wheat from which bread was made. A journey to the mill in those days, was quite an undertaking, which was usually postponed so long as the neighbors could furnish deficiencies by lending; when the trip was made it was necessary to repay the loans. An account of one of these expeditions was often told by an early settler. A man named Clark lived somewhere between where Bluff Springs and Arenzville are now located. He found his flour and meal exhausted, and a trip to the mill could no longer be put off. It was in winter, the days were short and the distance long. He found a neighbor woman who could come and keep his wife company, and mounting his horse, with a sack of corn he started away to the south to the mill on Indian Creek. Being compelled to "wait his turn," it was after dark before he was ready to start toward home. In the meantime a blizzard had arisen and the man soon lost his way, and became so stiffened with the cold as to be unable to find it. The horse took him in the right direction, however, and near midnight arrived at the cabin, and made sufficient noise to attract the attention of the anxious women. they dragged the half-frozen and unconscious man from the horse, carried him bodily into the cabin and putting him upon a bed covered him with blankets and waited the result. After he was thawed out, he opened his eyes and said: "Well, wife we have got a fine sack of meal, and we don't owe any of it."
Charles Beggs would have never consented to remove from Clark county, Indiana, to this wild country had he not foreseen the very rapid growth of improvements and population. The wonderful fertility of the soil, the excellent location of the state, with the Father of Waters upon the west, the great rivers on the south and southeast, and the great lake on the northeast, the Illinois and other streams traversing the state, the broad and level prairies upon which railroads could be easily and cheaply constructed, all gave promise of what the future had in store for the state of Illinois. he came here, knowing that he could rear his children in a land where they would have far greater and better opportunities than were possible in the south end of the Hoosier state; the outcome proved the wisdom of the change he made.
Mr. Beggs was fifty-four years of age, when he began the foundation of the new home in Morgan county; he immediately commenced this task with zeal and good judgment. The town of Princeton was laid out one mile east of his farm, in 1833, by Rev. John G. Bergen, and soon a store was established with shops of blacksmiths, wood-workers and wool-workers. Schools were instituted, religious worship was inaugurated, and all these enterprises Captain Beggs assisted and encouraged.
By the time he had become well established, he had passed the age of political ambitions. He preferred to live a quiet life upon his farm, spending his leisure hours in the acquisition of knowledge, for which he ever had a passionate fondness. He knew that death would part him from all material things, but the knowledge he had gained, the character to which he had attained would survive that crisis. He was regarded, not a very successful money-maker, but a man of superior intelligence, and of great moral worth, and his children strongly resembled him.
Affliction, trial and sorrow seem to be essential to the development of the highest type of human character, and, of these, Charles Beggs experienced his full share. His first wife and their two young children he buried in Indiana; Abram Epler, his old partner and close friend, who, with him crossed the Ohio to make homes in Indiana, who came to Illinois in 1832 and settled near him, who was the father of the husbands of two of his daughters, sickened and died in the year 1837 and Captain Beggs sorrowfully followed his body to its long resting place in the old Baptist cemetery on Indian Creek, now known as the Yatesville cemetery; in 1845, his son Cornelius, the eldest child of the second marriage was stricken down at his home in Kentucky at the early age of thirty-two years; in 1847, George W., his first born son, passed away at the age of thirty-nine, leaving a widow and six children, the youngest unborn; in 1859 his son Isaac died at the early age of thirty-one; two other sons Thomas and Charles died in infancy; all these bereavements but sweetened the character of Charles Beggs; he was an unwavering Christian and by his faith was sustained; he knew that all these loved ones had only passed on before him, and were waiting on the other side to bid him welcome when his own time should come.
In Morgan county Charles Beggs lived for forty years loved and respected by all who knew him, and on the 21st day of October in the year 1869, he peacefully passed away at the advanced age of ninety-four years, eleven months and twenty-one days and was laid to rest in the Zion churchyard.
In physical appearance Captain Beggs was more than six feet in height, weighing two hundred pounds when in full health and vigor, with blue eyes and black hair; he was a splendid horseman, and when mounted upon a steed of his choice made a fine picture. Politically he was a whig, and later, a republican. He was an honored member of the Methodist Episcopal church from the eighteenth year of his age.
The children of Charles Beggs, fifteen in number were the following:
Children of Charles Beggs and Dorothy (Trumbo) Beggs:
Elizabeth Beggs, born in Jefferson county, Kentucky, on June 15, 1798.
Sarah Beggs, born in Clark county, Indiana, on April 28, 1800.
Mary Ann Beggs, born in Clark county, Indiana, January 19, 1802.
George W. Beggs born in Clark county, Indiana, November 29, 1808.
Children of Charles Beggs and Mary Ruddell Beggs:
Cornelius Beggs, born in Clark county, Indiana, August 16th, 1813, and died unmarried at the age of 32 years and was buried at Smithland, Kentucky.
William Harvey Beggs, born in Clark county, Indiana, April 20, 1817.
James Lemon Beggs, born in Clark county, Indiana, November 11, 1819.
Margaret Beggs, born in Clark county, Indiana, December 23, 1821.
Dorothy Beggs, born in Clark county, Indiana, January 21, 1826.
Isaac W. Beggs, born in Clark county, Indiana, August 31, 1828, and died at the age of 31 years, unmarried and is buried in Zion Cemetery, Cass county, Illinois.
John Beggs, born in Morgan county, Illinois, August 7th, 1831.
Thomas Beggs and Charles Beggs died in infancy.
The descendants of Charles Beggs are more numerous than those of any other person who has been the subject of this series of Historical Sketches, and to enable the future reader to trace the history of this family down the stream of time the following information is here added:
Elizabeth Beggs, the oldest child of Charles Beggs, born in Kentucky, on June 15, 1788, was married to Henry Hopkins of Clark county, Indiana, on June 18, 1816, came to Illinois in 1825; settled upon the land, since known as the "Hopkins Farm" in 1826, where she lived until she was far advanced in years, when she and her husband and their youngest daughter removed to the city of Virginia, where she spent the remainder of her days. Mrs. Hopkins died in Virginia, Illinois, September 19, 1886, aged 88 years, 3 months and four days, and is buried by the side of her husband, Henry Hopkins, in Walnut Ridge cemetery. Her children were:
Dorothy A. Hopkins, born in Clark county, Indiana, on January 8th, 1818, married Elias Mathew, and died in Cass county, Illinois, September 9, 1849.
Rebecca J. Hopkins, born in Clark county, Indiana, March 17th, 1822, married William Blair and died in Labette county, Kansas, June 28, 1897.
Nancy S. Hopkins, born in Clark county, Indiana, December 19th, 1822, married Keeling Berry and died in McCook, Nebraska, October 14, 1877.
The reader will bear in mind that the Hopkins farm was in Morgan county until 1837, when Cass county was formed.
Sarah Beggs, the second daughter of Captain Charles Beggs, was born in Clark county, Indiana, on Aril 28th, 1800; she was married to John Epler, a son of Abram Epler, in Indiana on December 2, 1818. They moved to Morgan county, Illinois in 1831 and settled on a farm a half mile west of the site of the Town of Princeton which was previously owned by Levi Conover. With them came their six children, in age ranging from one year to twelve years. They resided on this farm which grew larger as the years came and went until 1875 when they moved to the city of Virginia. Her husband died here in 1876 and was buried in Zion cemetery, near the farm home; she survived him until January 11, 1882. Their children were as follows:
Charles Beggs Epler, born in Indiana, on December 1, 1819, married Mary Eliza Lurton, on February 22, 1843, and died August 8th, 1855.
Abraham Epler, born in Indiana, October 19th, 1821, and died August 5, 1847.
Cyrus Epler, born in Indiana, November 12, 1823; married Cornelia A. Nettleton, August 2, 1852; now resides in Jacksonville, Illinois.
Mary Ann Epler, born in Indiana February 5, 1826; married Richard F. Barrett, November 18th, 1847; died April 23rd, 1849.
Sarah Epler, born in Indiana, June 4th, 1828, married D. W. Fairbank, August 21, 1850; died March 27, 1904.
Elizabeth Epler, born in Indiana, September 23rd, 1830; married Henry H. Hall Jr., February 4, 1851; died April 1, 1870.
John Milton Epler, born in Illinois, April 22, 1833; married Nancy A. Epler, March 29, 1855, now resides at Chilicothe, Illinois.
William Epler, born in Illinois, April 15, 1835, married Jane Abagail Woodman on April 12, 1859, who died October 2, 1863; and again was married on July 5, 1870, to Ellen M. conover; he now resides at Jacksonville, Ill.
David Epler, born in Illinois, July 17, 1837, and died September 9th, 1838.
Myron Leslie Epler, born in Illinois, June 2, 1839; died September 5, 1866.
Margaret Ellen Epler, born in Illinois, June 27, 1842, married John W. Prince, Jun e2, 1865; now resides at Jacksonville, Illinois.
Albert Gallatin Epler, born in Illinois, January 22, 1845; married Martha J. Vance on July 31, 1865, and now resides in Colorado.
Mary Ann Beggs, the third daughter of Captain Charles Beggs, was born in Clark county, Indiana, on January 19th, 1802; she was married on September 20, 1827, to Jacob Epler, a son of Abram Epler; they came to Morgan county, Illinois, with Charles Beggs and family, in 1829, and settled on a tract of land in Sec. 27 t. 17, R. 10, now owned by William Buracker at Little Indian R.R. station. About the year 1849, he sold his farm here and removed to Sangamon county and laid out the town of Pleasant Plains, and made a provision that no intoxicating liquors should be sold therein. He had seen enough of the curse of whiskey drinking to have become a hater of the habit. There he lived for many years, acquiring a valuable property. In 1888, he moved back to Cass county, purchasing a home in Virginia, where he died in 1890, and was buried in Pleasant Plains cemetery by the side of his wife who departed this life on October 24th, 1884.
The children of Jacob Epler and Mary Ann (Beggs) Epler were the following:
George Andrew Epler was born in Indiana September 1st, 1828, died May 26, 1847.
John T. Epler, born December 16th, 1829.
Ann Epler, born October 28th, 1831.
Dorothy Epler, born December 6, 1835; died July 15, 1847.
Sarah Epler, born January 16, 1838.
Jane Epler, born December 12th, 1839.
Emily Epler, born February 20, 1842; died August 26, 1851.
Stephen D. Epler, born January 19, 1845.
George W. Beggs the eldest son of Captain Charles Beggs was born in Clark county, Indiana, on November 29, 1808. He came to Illinois in the year 1830, and for about one year lived with his father, near Princeton, and then lived in the family of his sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Hopkins until his marriage with Huldah Garner, the oldest daughter of Rev. James Garner, which took place on January 23, 1834, the Rev. John Van Cleave performing the marriage ceremony. James Garner was a friend of Captain Beggs' in Clark county, Indiana; came to Morgan county, Illinois, in 1830, and for a year lived a half mile west of the old Rosenberger farm at Princeton; then settled on lands in Sec 2 in Township 17 Range 9 and built Garner Chapel, with the assistance of other Methodist friends about 1836 on his lands very near his home; he reared a large family and five of his sons became Methodist preachers.
George W. Beggs entered with other land NW of NEĽ Sec 3, Township 17, Range 9, in the year 1833, and on this tract, at the northwest corner he built a house to which he took the young wife; her father. Reverend Garner lived less than a mile away. Mr. Beggs, like his father, cared more for knowledge than for corn and hogs, and although he acquired plenty of land he was not noted as a money gatherer. He spent most of his leisure in reading and study. He was a man six feet in height with blue eyes and dark brown hair weighing 180 pounds and of commanding presence. His ability was recognized, and he was called upon to undertake public responsibilities. He was chosen as a justice of the peace, which was a most honorable position in those days, and he soon became well known as a "peace-maker". Settling many controversies that arose among his neighbors in a quiet sensible way. He was selected by the county court as the agent of Cass county to receive from the state the sums due the county under the State Public Improvement act; he was selected as one of the board of trustees of Township Seventeen, Range Nine and assisted to lay out the Town of Philadelphia in that township. At tone time he secured a large number of votes of his friends and neighbors for a county office he did not seek nor desire to fill. He was a soldier in the Blackhawk war and took part in the battle that resulted in the defeat of that desperate chief. Mr. Beggs was an earnest worker in the M.E. church; was selected as class leader of the Garner Chapel society of that denomination, and took a prominent part in revival meetings. In the winter of 1846-7 a large meeting was held at the school house on the Page Williams farm some six miles distant from Mr. Beggs' residence; this meeting he attended night after night; the weather was severe and he contracted pneumonia which caused his death at the early age of thirty-eight years on February 1st, 1847. After the death of the husband and father the family was scattered for a few months, but the mother soon gathered the children together again and reared them to manhood and womanhood; she died on August 25, 1865, at the age of 51 years and 7 months and lies buried by the side of her husband and one of their children in the Garner Chapel cemetery.
The children of George W. Beggs and Huldah (Garner) Beggs were as follows:
Mary Elizabeth Beggs, born January 3, 1835, married William Crews August 28, 1851; died April 15th, 1863.
James Harvey Beggs, born May 12, 1837.
Charles Chandler Beggs, born June 20, 1839.
John Epler Beggs, born November 15, 1841, died March 27, 1856.
Robert Henry Beggs, born September 24, 1844, now resides at Denver, Colorado.
Dorothy Ann Beggs, born June 23, 1847.
Only the two last named of the family are now living: Prof. R. H. Beggs, resides in Denver, and Mrs. Dorothy Ann Epler resides in Nebraska.
William Harvey Beggs a son of Captain Charles Beggs and Mary (Ruddell) Beggs, was born in Indiana on April 20, 1817, and came with his parents to Illinois when he was twelve years of age. In 1842 William Harvey Beggs was married to Mary Tucker and of that marriage were born two sons, Thomas Benson Beggs and Abram Epler Beggs. The first names was born in Morgan county, Illinois, March 14, 1843, and he fell at the siege of Vicksburg, Miss., on June 29, 1863, and was there buried. The second son, Abram Epler Beggs, was born in Morgan county, Illinois, April 14, 1846, was married to Margaret Gentry Scott, of Danville, Kentucky, on December 25, 1879, and died at his home in Kansas City, Missouri, February 26, 1903.
The second wife of William Harvey Beggs was Mrs. Mary Rex Kelley, and of this second marriage there were born two sons, Clarey T. Beggs and Charles Harvey Beggs. The first named was born in Morgan county, Illinois, on September 10, 1868, and was married to Emma Bartlett, of Nebraska, on August 12, 1890, and they now reside in Myton, Utah. Charles Harvey Beggs was born on April 27, 1871, in Morgan county, Illinois; he is unmarried and resides with his mother. William Harvey Beggs died at the age of seventy-two years and was buried in the Centenary grave yard in Cass county, Illinois, northwest of Ashland.
James Lemon Beggs, son of Captain Beggs and Mary (Ruddell) Beggs, was born in Clark county, Indiana, on November 11, 1819; he was but ten years of age when his parents came to Illinois. On June 17, 1846, he was married to Mary Jane Ward, a daughter of Jacob Ward, Esq., of Cass county; he began farming about four miles northwest of Ashland on land now owned by L. L. Savage, after his marriage; his wife died about 6 months after her marriage.
On August 30, 1848, James L. Beggs was married to Mary A. Crow, a daughter of Rev. William Crow, a very early settler, on August 30, 1848. On April 18, 1853, James L. Beggs purchased of John Grigg of Philadelphia, Penn., the SEĽ of the NEĽ Sec. 32, T. 17, R. *, and in 1856 he bought his brothers-in-law, John H. Crow and J. Elmore Crow, 340 acres in sections 29 and 32 in the same township.
In 1857, Mr. Beggs and Mr. Crow with others organized a land company, and upon the lands of James L. Beggs and Elmore Crow the town of Ashland was laid out on the 17th day of August, 1857.
Mr. Beggs with his family resided upon his farm immediately west of and adjoining the town of Ashland for many years. In 1873 he moved to Kansas where he resided until 1880 when he went to Colorado. In 1881 he returned to Ashland, Illinois, where he resided until the time of his death.
The children of James L. Beggs and his wife Mary A. Beggs were as follows:
S. Ella Beggs, born June 12, 1849.
C. Edwin Beggs born January 22, 1851, now a resident of Ashland, Illinois.
Lucy J. Beggs, born March 11, 1855.
William C. Beggs, born September 10, 1857.
John L. Beggs, born December 13, 1860, and died May 10, 1900, at Ashland, Illinois.
George Henry Beggs, born February 8, 1863, and died June 24, 1898, near Thermopolis, Wyoming.
Abraham Lincoln Beggs, born October 4, 1865.
James L. Beggs died on the 22nd day of December, 1889, aged 70 years, 1 month and 11 days and was buried in the Ashland cemetery.
Margaret Beggs, daughter of Captain Charles Beggs and Mary (Ruddell) Beggs, was born in Clark county, Indiana, on the 23rd day of December, 1821; she came to Illinois with her parents when 8 years of age. She was married to Isaac Milton Stribling (a son of Benjamin and Milly (Horn) Stribling). She died at her home, about a mile northwest of Virginia, Cass county, on the 26th day of September, 1856, at the early age of 33 years, 9 months and 3 days; she was buried in the Stribling graveyard, but her remains now lie in Walnut Ridge cemetery by the side of her husband. The children of Margaret (Beggs) Stribling and I. M. Stribling were the following:
Mary Joanna Stribling (now the widow of Captain William Hitchcock deceased) was born January 6th, 1844, now lives in Texas.
James Thomas Stribling, born April 7, 1846, now living at Ashland, Illinois.
Katharine Stribling (now the widow of Captain Robert Bowles) was born August 11th, 1847, now resides in Missouri.
Henry Clay Stribling born July 16th, 1852, now resides on a farm near Ashland, Illinois.
Margaret Louie Stribling (now the wife of John W. Virgin) born February 18th, 1856, now resides on a farm 6 miles southwest of Virginia, Illinois.
Dorothy Beggs, a daughter of Captain Charles Beggs and Mary (Ruddell) Beggs, was born in Clark county, Indiana, on the 21st day of January, 1826, and came to Illinois with her parents when she was three years of age. She was married to Samuel Sinclair and went to his home on a farm near the Centenary church northwest of Ashland in this county. Some years later they removed to Springfield, Illinois, where he husband died; Mrs. Sinclair is still living in that city. The children of Dorothy (Beggs) Sinclair and Samuel Sinclair were the following:
Emma Louise Sinclair, born August 30th, 1865; now lives in Springfield, Illinois.
Margaret Sinclair, born November 11th, 1869, now resides in Springfield.
John Beggs, the youngest child of Captain Charles Beggs and Mary Ruddell Beggs was born in Illinois, on August 7th, 1831. he was married to Sarah Sinclair, of Morgan county, Illinois, on the 18th day of December, 1855. Mr. John Beggs is now living on his farm near the Centenary church, northwest of Ashland. His children are as follows:
Emma Beggs, born December 29, 1856, was married to Edwin Beggs November 5, 1879, and died August 10, 1901.
Anna Beggs, born July 27, 1856, was married to Rev. J. O. Kirkpatrick, October 19, 1894, and now (1907) resides in Virginia, Illinois.
Charles Sinclair Beggs, born May 23, 1860; married Miss Helen C. Putnam, August 3, 1901; now resides on a farm northwest of Ashland.
John Thomas Beggs, born April 4, 1863, and died March 25, 1897.
Nellie Beggs, born April 6, 1865, died August 12, 1865.
Myra Beggs, born July 7, 1867.
Samuel Watson Beggs, born December 8th, 1869; married Miss Minnie Taylor, December 18th, 1904.
This sketch should not be concluded without further mention of Mary Ruddell Beggs, the second wife of Captain Charles Beggs.
What pen can fittingly describe that intense form of human suffering called homesickness? Certainly not mine; it would require the effort of a most brilliant woman, and human language would fail her. Woman, being of so much finer fibre than man, is capable of the enjoyment of a much higher degree of pleasure and consequently suffers more keenly from the effects of mental anguish. The author of the articles now running in McClure's Magazine entitled "The History of Christian Science" may be correct in denouncing May Baker Eddy as an impostor, if she claims to be the discoverer of the law which has given to that cult its wonderful success, to-wit; that which relates to the power of mind over matter; it may be she borrowed all of her information from Mr. Quinby, but that is not material; the law exists, notwithstanding. If a sufferer from toothache will but take a long ane earnest look upon the cold steel instruments upon a dentist's operating table he usually finds it sufficient to banish his suffering. The operation of that law, together with the additional fact that the law of association exercises so wonderful an influence over the mind of woman should be taken into consideration in the study of homesickness. The average man knows but little about it; it is as useless to talk to him of it as it would be to discuss the subject of the flavor of the strawberry with an inveterate chewer of tobacco, who has so crucified his sense of taste as to become unable to distinguish between the flavor of a dish of pineapple and that of boiled turnip were he to swallow both in the dark. John H. tureman, a man of unusual power of observation, born in the early 30's within a few miles of the location of this city, told the writer that he never knew an immigrant to this county but would have gladly returned had he been financially able so to do; and that many did so return and later came here a second time, and one individual made two return trips before he could persuade himself to become a permanent resident here. If this was true of the early male settlers, imagine the suffering of their wives and daughters, confined as they were for the greater number of their hours of consciousness within the four walls of the kitchen of a log hut.
A true story will more fully illustrate this. In the year 1852, George Hartmann, born and reared in the state of Pennsylvania, married a young woman whom he had known from young girlhood, also a native of that state. He was 25 years of age and she was four years younger. They were both children of poor parentage; he learned the carpenter's trade at which he worked in the Quaker state. He began to hear of the opportunities in the Illinois country, he was told that it was a wonderful state, of rapid growth; that te demand for mechanics was far greater than the supply, and he became anxious to migrate thither. His young wife, like all other women was greatly attached to her surroundings. The winters were long and dreary, but the remainder of the year was delightful. The scenery was grand, the air pure, the water of the very best; her modest little home was there, and she was attached to it, but more than all else, she was near her widowed mother. She believed in the old maxims "Let well enough alone;" "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." With pain and alarm she saw that her husband was fully determined to go to Illinois, and recognizing the legal right of the husband to choose the homestead of the family she sorrowfully and reluctantly prepared for their departure. The last Sabbath day came; she went with her mother to the little church where she had been a constant attendant from her earliest recollection. She listened, for the last time to the voices of her friends who composed the village choir; she saw the good old pastor arise in his place; he had conducted the services upon the occasion of the burial of her father and with her had wept over the remains of his body cold in death. In the afternoon she went out with her mother, for her last visit to the churchyard; she scattered spring flowers upon the graves of her father and little brother and two sisters. In the evening she listened to the farewells of her young friends. How could one describe her parting with her widowed mother? Let the women who may chance to read this sketch imagine it. They came to Cass county and settled in Virginia, taking up their abode in the G. W. Harris house on the west side of the east square, where the Caper Magel building now stands. Her husband began his labor as a house carpenter, and was fairly successful, but no one can describe the loneliness of the young wife. A son was born to her in November 1853, and that event tended to divert her mind from her lonely condition. Late in the season of 1854, her husband was stricken with typhoid fever, which soon overcame him; he died on the 19th day of December, in the Harris house. John and Mark Buckley came with a board of sufficient length and width and laid his corpse upon it, and proceeded to make for him a coffin. In the meantime the child contracted the deadly disease and lay moaning in delirium. the young wife and mother sat by the side of her dead husband and earnestly prayed God to take the child to its father. She followed the corpse to the Freeman burial ground, less than two miles northeast of the town where it was laid away up on a ridge of ground. In the morning John Buckley came to remove the board; the widow, with a pale face, but with dry eyes said to him; "Leave it there; you will need it for me in a few more days." Mr. Buckley silently complied with her request with pity in his heart for this grief-stricken hopeless woman. The little boy, then 15 months old, passed away a month after its father's death, and was laid by his side. the mother returned the second time from the place of burial, threw herself upon her bed and wholly surrendered herself tot he fever; had her child been spared, she might have fought for her life; but she wished to die and eight weeks after the death of her husband and four weeks after the death of her baby she breathed her last - a heart broken woman less than twenty-four years of age. In the same humble spot they buried her; the sale of their few belongings was used in the purchase of three modest marble slabs which are still to be seen with these inscriptions:
George Hartmann, died December 19, 1854, aged 28 years, 8 months, 14 days. Born in Penn.
Hyman W., son of G. & D. Hartmann died Jan. 28, 1865, aged 1 year, 2 months, 26 days.
Delilah, wife of George Hartman, died Feb. 22, 1855, aged 23 years, 11 months and 12 days. Born in Penn.
The remains of the Freeman family, except the ashes of a child who died more than seventy years ago were long since removed to Walnut Ridge cemetery and the other graves there remaining are those of strangers to that family, but let it here be recorded to the honor of Henry Hunt, that he has protected the graves of those dead people from trampling of domestic animals by the erection and maintenance of a substantial fence. It were well if there were more men in Cass county like Henry Hunt.
George Hartmann brought his wife to an Illinois village; a straggling one, to be sure, but it could boast of schools, of regular religious meetings; of churches, of regular ministers of the gospel; of respectable stocks of merchandise; of a daily mail brought in by a line of stages forming a connection with a railroad, river navigation and the outside world. But what of the settlers of a quarter of a century earlier, when Captain Beggs and his family made their appearance? There was no Virginia then; Beardstown was but little more than a ferry landing; Jacksonville but just started into existence; Princeton yet to be laid out. The pioneers did not closely congregate themselves together; they kept somewhat apart, that they might be able to make additions to their holdings without too much competition and in order that they might have a greater range for their live stock. The wives of these brave men surely deserved the greatest pity. The nightly howlings of the prowling wolves were enough to drive them to despair. when their children were lying prostrated with the deadly malaria that infested the Illinois prairies in those days, where were the physicians and the nurses?
Mrs. Mary ruddell Beggs was a good faithful church woman, but on very many occasions her place in the church assembly was vacant. She was to be found at the bedside of the sick. She sought out the newly arriving settlers to greet them with words of cheer and encouragement. She went from home to home to do all in her power to assist these pioneer wives and mothers. She could understand the grief and suffering of others, for she knew by experience. In these errands of mercy she was loyally encouraged by her good kind-hearted husband, and the name of Mrs. Beggs was known and loved by all within her reach and influence. When her daughter Margaret Stribling passed away, Mrs. Beggs gathered the babe of the dead mother in her arms, bore it to her own home and reared it with the greatest tenderness and affection. She was a woman slight in stature, delicate in appearance, modest and unassuming in deportment; all she did was performed as a matter of course and as of no especial merit.
Whether the Mosaic account of the creation is literally true, or whether the Darwinian theory of the descent of man is correct, it is altogether probable that our remote ancestors were low savage barbarians who killed snakes with clubs, and ate them raw in caves. Since those days the race has made considerable progress, in a slow and painful manner; for this progress the women of the race deserve the greatest praise. Great men are the sons of great women; the mother molds the character of her child; the moral sense of women is vastly superior to the moral sense of men; this always has been and now is. Our churches would soon languish and die save for the persistent effort of women; they are the chief support of the temperance reform. The great English poet in pessimistic mood made Antony declare.
"Thy evil, that men do, lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones."
Evil is short-lived; it contains the seeds of its own destruction; it is the good that survives. Were this untrue, the world would grow worse, not better.
In the quiet country church yard, at Zion, is a small white stone on which is written:
"Mary, wife of Charles Beggs, born April 28th, 1790; died August 4th, 1891, aged 81 years, 3 months and 6 days."
This stone will soon crumble away, but the good deeds this noble woman performed during her long and active life still live, and will continue to live, long after the Zion church yard shall have been forgotten.